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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Book Review - The Swan Thieves

I’ve wanted to read The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova for quite some time, but with so many other books in my home I’ve been reading, I put it off.  Then, a few weeks ago I was at Goodwill and there, for $2.99 was The Swan Thieves (retails for $26.99).  
What I love about thrift store shopping is you find everything you never knew you needed so desperately.
I purchased the book and started it that night.
I love starting a new book and immediately fall in love with the language.  It’s the sweetest delight, like an artist describing word for word a painting he is composing.  As a matter of fact, that’s how the book starts.
An artist from the year 1895 shares how he is constructing his canvas, from shadows to color choices to smudges of light to the very last touch.  He paints a beautiful woman carrying a bundle (is it a child?) as she walks rushed through the poor desolate streets of winter France.
Jump into the present and meet Robert Oliver, a gifted American artist who has taken a knife to the National Gallery of Art and attacked a famous painting.  Andrew Marlow, director of a mental institution is assigned as Robert’s psychologist.  The problem is, Robert Oliver won’t talk to the doctor. 
At first, Dr. Marlow is puzzled.  A patient who won’t talk is hardly someone he can help, but when he sees Robert paint a woman, so beautiful and haunting he becomes fixated.  Normally full of order and strict schedules, Dr. Marlow becomes a bit undone; using tactics to learn more and more about Robert Oliver and the woman he continually paints. 
The reader not only follows the journey of Dr. Marlow and Robert Oliver, but also a 19th century painter named Beatrice De Clerval. 
The Swan Thieves opened my mind to how a master artist thinks, how he feels and most importantly, why he paints.  The painting Leda and the Swan by Francois-Edouard Picot is at the forefront of the story.  
Every time I put The Swan Thieves down, I started at this painting.  Very much like The Da Vinci Code, there are clues and symbols in the art that are not understood until the story is finished.
The Swan Thieves is clever and shared in such a beautiful way, I definitely consider it a piece of fine art.


  1. Kostova is one of my favorite authors. And since I graduated in art history, this one was a perfect fit for me. I LOVED it. If you love this book, you should read her first novel, The Historian. Even better. Sooooooooooo good. Glad you found one of my favorites to savor.

  2. Sounds wonderful. Thanks for the reviews.